Thursday, September 03, 2015
"Children of GIANT": documentary about the 1956 epic film, and its impact on race or immigrant relations
“Children of GIANT”, directed by Hector Galan, is a documentary about the making of the 1956 epic film “Giant” by George Stevens, and particularly about how the making of the film played out with the issue of American and Mexican immigrant relations in the west Texas community of Marfa, where it was shot. The area provides a barren landscape flat desert-like plains with distant mountains. The 1956 film actually starts with a brief prologue set in the Maryland "horse country".
The epic had been based on the novel by Edna Ferber. Stevens saw a chance to make a film about big ideas. At the center was the treatment of immigrants and native people, as played out in a famous scene in Sarge’s diner near the end (replayed in the documentary), not actually in the novel.
In fact, when the film was shown in Mexico or in certain markets, the scenes about “race relations” were edited out.
There was also, at the time in Marfa, a push to make all children in schools learn English and stop speaking Spanish.
The documentary also focuses on the actors Rock Hudson and James Dean and their characters. Dean’s renegade character Jett Rink winds up being richer than the establishment at the “Brite Mansion”. Dean’s alleged homosexuality has been covered in film before (June 26, 2014 and July 17, 2014), and Rock Hudson’s death in the 1980s was a watermark in the history of AIDS. This was a time, according to a fictional story in the Advocate in 1984 (“The Body Shave”) when actors couldn’t bare what advantages nature had given them.
The documentary aired on PBS Voices on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. The PBS link is here. The full Giant movie can be rented on YouTube for $2.99.
I saw the original film “Giant” at the Inwood Theater in Dallas (on Lover’s Lane as I recall) in 1984 with a friend. Despite its sweep, the film was shot in Mono and a regular aspect ratio for the time of 1.66:1. I did visit the West Texas area occasionally when I lived in Dallas from 1979 to 1988, and did a hike in Big Bend Thanksgiving Weekend of 1979 with the Sierra Club.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of viewing platform for Marfa lights, by Daniel Scwhen. "USA Marfa Lights Viewing Platform TX" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons. The phenomenon may be similar to the lights over Brown Mountain Ridge in the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. Second picture is own picture (reprocessed) from 1979 hike. Third picture, West Texas near Odessa Meteor Crater, personal trip, 2011.